Internet Exec, Famous Lawyer and Gym Coach Among 10 Suspects in Sex Assault on Preteen

Israel police have arrested at least ten men suspected of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy. Police also said that at the house of one of the suspects they arrested a prominent attorney, who was allegedly in possession of the amphetamine-like drug Hagigat.

A gag order on the case was lifted yesterday, revealing that the suspects include a leading individual in the Internet industry and a well-known sports coach.

The affair began about two years ago when, at age 13, the boy allegedly posted a page on the gay Web site Atraf, in which he stated his age as 18 and posted a picture of himself without his shirt and wearing sunglasses, saying he wanted to meet men.

Police said the boy received many replies, among them from nine of the men now under arrest in the case, and other men who have not yet been located. The men allegedly began sexual relationships with the boy, including indecent acts and sodomy, paying him in cigarette money. In one instance a suspect allegedly agreed to install a program on the boy's computer in exchange for sex.

About two years ago, according to police, tensions arose between several of the men, who threatened one another out of jealousy involving their relationship with the boy. It is also believed that in some instances the boy was sodomized against his will and that two of the suspects threatened they would harm him further if he told anyone.

However, the affair only came to light last week after letters were sent to the youth's home in the Tel Aviv area detailing his actions with the men over the past two years and threatening to expose him to friends and parents. The teen's cousin discovered the letters and it was she who brought them to the police, who then summoned the boy to file a complaint that same day. The boy revealed the names of the men with whom he had had sex and detectives from the North Tel Aviv police began surfing the Internet site Atraf under an assumed identity, eventually managing to contact nine of the suspects, who also used false names. They were arrested on Sunday and a gag order was clamped on the case so as not to interfere with the search for more suspects.

During the arrest of one suspect, police were surprised to find the attorney at the same apartment, together with a 17-year-old boy and the Hagigat. The teen told police the man had given him the drug, an allegation the man did not deny. "He was at the wrong place in the wrong time," a source close to the attorney said.

The suspects were brought to the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on Sunday evening for a closed-door hearing, during which police representative Ya'akov Bernard asked for a week-long remand. The suspects' lawyers, who include Boaz Reuben, Yahel Ben-Oved and Revital Swid, told the court that the complainant presented himself on the Internet site as about 18 years old, and that if the suspects had sexual relations with him, they were consensual and they believed him to be an adult. Attorney Avi Himi, who is representing the lawyer police have arrested in the case, said "The suspect was unlucky in being at the apartment, and he cannot be connected in any way to the drugs found in the apartment, which do not belong to him."

Judge Beni Sagi, who noted that reasonable suspicions existed against all the suspects, remanded four of them for four days. He remanded the senior Internet figure, the coach and another suspect for a further 24 hours, and released the lawyer to house arrest.

Police yesterday arrested another man suspected of sodomizing the boy, extending his remand for four days. Over the past 24 hours two more suspects have been arrested on suspicion of sodomizing the boy. One has been remanded until this evening, and the second was released to house arrest.

According to one of the suspects, the boy's mother found out six months ago that he was involved in sexual relations with an older man. She approached the man and demanded he stay away from her son, which he did. Police declined to comment on the statement.

The boy's father and other close relatives do not know that he is the minor involved in this case. He continues to attend school in Tel Aviv and the records of the website Atraf show that he surfed it for a few hours within the past few days.

One of the suspects is a computer engineer and another is a well-known figure in the night life of a city in the south. The suspects are all between the ages of 24 to 46.